Ana Lily Amirpour's comic post-apocalyptic action-drama offers little explanation of what exactly its "bad batch" is, or how the members of its motley, unfortunate tribe of humans wound up banished to a desert wasteland. Instead, Amirpour lets her camera linger on a sign warning that everything beyond a 10-foot-high metal fence is no longer the concern of United States, while Arlen (Suki Waterhouse), a young woman in watermelon-print short-shorts, gazes at a note that some prison guards have gifted her. "Find Comfort," it reads. But nothing in this harsh terrain even remotely suggests comfortable.
Amirpour's instinct is to let her scenes speak for themselves. The Bad Batch needs no lengthy setup because its premise is already vivid in our collective imaginations — it's the waking nightmare of what America could become, a worst-case scenario in which all the president's promises have been fulfilled, and undesirables are banished to godforsaken places ravaged by climate change and climbing temperatures. Somehow, it's also funny.
Arlen is almost immediately kidnapped by a band of survivalist, bodybuilding cannibals, and she loses a lower leg and an arm that first day. But she's a crafty survivor and escapes the camp; a homeless wanderer (Jim Carrey) then delivers her to the makeshift town of Comfort, a Burning Man for beggars. There she experiences an LSD trip and meets a cult leader played by Keanu Reeves. But no matter how confounding the story gets, details and humor ground the narrative, and a simple guiding premise about the importance of human connection and artistic expression fills in the blanks. As in her debut, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Amirpour lets her pictures do the talking.